We’ve all heard our peers expound on the effectiveness of a program (the Paleo diet comes to mind), but when was the last time they could actually prove it with cold, hard facts?
Thanks to an independent study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, the leaders of Minnesota Reading Corps can prove that Minnesota’s students are accelerating their growth at a rate that would not happen without the Reading Corps. Results from the study show that students being tutored in reading for 20 minutes a day, every day school is in session, equates to an extra half to full year of schooling. That’s like a kindergartner taking 18 months of reading classes in the span of 9 months. It’s no wonder that in two of Minnesota’s districts with Reading Corps, more than 70 percent of students who had reached reading proficiency by third grade had gone through the program.
Minnesota Reading Corps works with more than 25,000 students in pre-kindergarten through third grade in approximately 600 schools across the state. The NORC study establishes that, while all program participants show significant improvements in reading, English Language Learners, Black/African American students and male students benefit the most.
“Recent research shows that basic literacy skills, even in kindergarten, have a direct benefit on reading comprehension as late as 10th-grade, and those are the very skills Reading Corps improved in this study,” says David Parker, Ph.D., Vice President of Research and Development for ServeMinnesota, which administers AmeriCorps programs like Minnesota Reading Corps. “It also found there’s evidence of a transfer effect, meaning harder reading skills that aren’t necessarily being addressed in the tutoring sessions are showing improvements. This is truly amazing,” noted Dr. Parker, adding that such findings are rare in educational research.
The 2018 study was a follow up to a 2014 study also conducted by NORC that had similar findings. At the same time it was studying Minnesota, NORC was evaluating Florida Reading Corps and Wisconsin Reading Corps. It found the same tutoring model was having a positive impact on students in those states (the Reading Corps program is replicated in 12 states and the District of Columbia). “This means this program works over time and place, especially for at-risk students,” says Dr. Parker.
The program currently has more than 1,000 trained AmeriCorps tutors statewide but has openings for many more. Minnesota recently ranked third in the U.S. for AmeriCorps volunteers, making it one of the most philanthropic-minded states in the country.